Comment: Retailers can benefit from the Pokemon Go craze says Andi Grant of Global Display

Andi Grant

What is all the fuss about? If you haven’t heard of the latest gaming application then, quite simply, where have you been? Perhaps you have been hiding from all the Pokemons?

What is Pokemon Go? It’s a game for your mobile - so nothing new there. However what makes this game particularly noteworthy is both its concept and how quickly it has become a worldwide phenomenon. Developed by Niantic and Nintendo it combines simple game-play with location based augmented reality – utilising a game from the 1990s brought bang uptodate with 21st century technology.

The gameplay uses your own GPS location, therefore creating a unique experience for every player and it is one of the first successful games to bridge virtual and reality in this way. For example the map in which your avatar walks, is the map of where you are (your street!) and when you discover a Pokemon (pocket monster) your mobile camera turns on, overlaying the monster against whatever you are pointing your phone at.

Worldwide phenomena on this scale are pretty rare in this day and age but this game has bridged numerous cultural barriers, partly because it doesn’t matter where you are or what language you speak, as the location-based concept and easy to understand game play render language obsolete.

What does this mean for retail? It could well be an opportunity on a number of levels. Already we see churches competing to become Pokestops (landmarks where you can collect bonus items) as they see this as a way to encourage visitors to their locations. So how long before a retailer gets on board? Not only would it assist in promoting store locations but, combined with special linked offers or unique Pokemans hidden inside the aisles, surely users would flock to these outlets?

Once the customer is inside the retailer would need to convince them to stay and perhaps part with some real world (or virtual) currency. The way in which successful retailers do this is through visual merchandising and engaging retail design.

If a game drives a customer into the store, it must be the store experience that ensures they don't collect their points and run. If a building’s structure is the operating system then visual merchandising is the real world equivalent of a new game. Updating displays, delighting and inspiring consumers ensures they will want to return to experience the next 'level' of the game. If anything, the rise of these augmented reality games could force retailers to up the ante when it comes to store interiors, layering experiential (both digital and physical) alongside constantly evolving retail environments.

This could lead to architectural spaces that are as flexible as the store equipment within them. Walls that slide or rotate to form new or hidden spaces. Flooring that be laid and relaid overnight, ceilings that can be raised and lowered - all easily achievable in a digital world, but much more impactful in a bricks and mortar location.

Finally, this could encourage retailers to diversify. When Apple is reportedly working on a fully fledged car is it really that strange to comprehend the likes of Adidas or Zara releasing a mobile gaming app?  Many brands are already diversifying to reach new markets and to stay relevant to their target market. To do this they need to get into their consumers’ everyday lives, and capture their attention - like Pokemon, gotta catch 'em all!

 Andi Grant is creative director of Global Display. The company will be exhibiting on stand E44 at Retail Design Expo 2017